Miami Art Deco District Self-Guided Tour
In the early 20th century, Miami was becoming a popular tourist destination during the winter due to its warmer climate and beautiful beaches. Travelers looking to escape the cold weather of northern states began to visit the Magic City in droves as soon as the first snowflake hit. It was due to this behavior and similar movements around the country that many of these visitors became known as “snowbirds.” In order to accommodate these audiences and many more, developers began to construct hotels and hostels that would attract them, choosing unique Art Deco designs both to save money and to attract potential customers.
Many of these locations still exist today, and their architectural style is a fantastic sight to behold. Depending on the era in which they were built, these buildings often represent interesting time periods in Miami’s history. Simply walking down Ocean Drive reveals much of the city’s history through the eyes of several creative architectural designers. With that in mind, let’s go on a tour of Miami’s Art Deco District and discover how South Beach has developed over almost a century.
This self-guided walking tour will take at least an hour or two to complete, so be prepared for the trek and make sure to bring some water with you. If you ever feel like taking a break at one of the many restaurants that you will see along the way, don’t hesitate to get off your feet for a little while and enjoy some of the delicious flavors of South Beach. Remember, this tour is under your control, so you are free to take it at your own pace. Relax and have fun while learning all about Miami’s architectural history!
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(A) Art Deco Welcome Center 1001 Ocean Drive at 10th Street
Any good tour of Miami’s Art Deco District should start at the Art Deco Welcome Center located near Lummus Park. This is the home of the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL), which was instrumental in saving a lot of the buildings that you will be seeing on this excursion. At the Welcome Center, you’ll have the opportunity to learn a lot about many of the sites on this walking tour before you head out. MDPL also provides their own guided and self-guided tours of the area, but you are not required to take them.
(B) Lummus Park Ocean Drive from 5th St. to 15th St.
This park runs alongside Ocean Drive for most of the length of our entire tour, so why not take a stroll beneath the palm trees? As you head south through Lummus Park to your next destination, look to your left for a glorious view of Miami Beach. To your right, you’ll see the beautiful Art Deco skyline of South Beach represented in a variety of businesses and uniquely designed buildings. Once you reach 7th Street, keep an eye out for the next stop on our self-guided walking tour.
(C) Park Central Hotel 640 Ocean Drive
It will be difficult to miss this landmark, as the appearance of this beautiful Art Deco hotel definitely stands out from the rest. Designed by the great Floridian architect Henry Hohauser, the Park Central Hotel was originally built in 1937 and was updated in 1985 in order to preserve its aesthetic. The Park Central is notable for being the first hotel in South Beach which urban developer Tony Goldman renovated as part of a project to restore several of the properties in Miami to their former glory. Although it was restored to preserve its original vintage appeal, guests have access to most modern amenities such as Wi-Fi and flat panel TVs.
Once you’ve seen the Park Central Hotel, head south until you reach 6th street. Walk down 6th street until you reach Collins Avenue, where you will find a lot of shopping. Two blocks north, on 8th street, you’ll discover the next attraction on our walking tour.
(D) The Hotel of South Beach 801 Collins Avenue
Despite the fairly unassuming name, you probably won’t have too much trouble finding this historic hotel. All you have to do is look up at the neon spire which reads “Tiffany” in order to locate The Hotel of South Beach. This beautifully restored hotel was originally designed by L. Murray Dixon and built in 1939. The Hotel was previously named The Tiffany, and it wasn’t until the late 1990’s when fashion designer Todd Oldham stepped in that the name was changed to reflect a more modern appeal. Although this building has been modernized in many ways, architects and designers elected to keep the Tiffany sign and it is still used to this day.
When you’re done checking out The Hotel of South Beach, keep heading north on Collins Avenue for two blocks. As you walk down the avenue, you’ll notice quite a bit of unique architecture from various eras on either side of the street. At the corner of 10th and Collins, you will find our next stop on this self-guided walking tour of the Miami Art Deco District.
(E) Essex House 1001 Collins Avenue
Henry Hohauser was in high demand during the late in 1930’s, having designed a number of hotels in Miami Beach. Essex House, built in 1938, is a unique design that resembles a cruise ship heading into the ocean. In Miami, the Art Deco movement wasn’t just about bold and rich colors, it was also about taking chances on various architectural designs. What better way to stand out than by building a hotel that looks like an ocean liner?
As you walk east down 10th street, continue to enjoy the design of Essex House while you move in the direction of the Art Deco Welcome Center on Ocean Drive. When you arrive once again at the Welcome Center, walk north on Ocean Drive to continue this self-guided walking tour of Miami’s Art Deco district.
(F) The Clevelander 1020 Ocean Drive
Located right across the street from the Art Deco Welcome Center, this beauty was built in 1938 by Albert Anis and features a stylish patio bar. Feel free to stop by and get a drink, or just take in the view of this creative hotel. Renovated and restored in 2009, the Clevelander serves as an excellent counterpoint to Essex House. There’s always something happening at this beautiful and historic hotel in the heart of Miami’s Art Deco district.
Continue walking north on Ocean Drive and take in the sights of the Congress Hotel as you make your way to our next destination. As you pass 11th street, look to your left and take note of a building hidden away by several palm trees to locate the next stop on this walking tour.
(G) The Villa Casa Casuarina 1116 Ocean Drive
We’ve seen quite a few hotels on this tour so far, but none of them look anything like the Casa Casuarina. The original owner and designer, Alden Freeman, was inspired to build the mansion in 1930 after visiting Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. While he was there, Freeman saw the Alcazar De Colon which was built during the early 16th century by Diego Columbus (Christopher Columbus’s Son). It is known for being the oldest residence in the western hemisphere. Freeman was so moved by this structure that he obtained one of the bricks from the Alcazar De Colon and used it in the construction of the Casa Casuarina.
When clothes designer Gianni Versace bought the mansion in 1992, he decided to expand it by demolishing another historic hotel located next door. Although this wasn’t looked upon favorably by the MDPL, there was little they could do to stop it from happening. When it was purchased by Barton G. Weiss in 2009, he decided to rename the property The Villa.
Legend has it that the mansion was originally named after the last tree that remained on the lot where it was built after a hurricane that hit Miami in 1926. Freeman was forced to cut that tree down, and it is said that he named the mansion in its honor. The name of the tree was the Casuarina equisetifolia, which is more commonly described as the Australian Pine Tree.
Let’s continue our self-guided walking tour by moving north on Ocean Drive toward 12th street. As you move past the Sugar Factory and the Palace Bar, you’ll discover our next stop.
(H) The Tides Hotel 1220 Ocean Drive
By now, you’ve probably noticed that the Art Deco district is peppered with dozens of uniquely designed buildings that tend to stand out from one another. The Tides is no exception, as the pinkish hue and porthole windows make it easy to spot. The Tides was designed and built by L. Murray Dixon in 1936, just a few years before he worked on The Tiffany. This was the first Art Deco hotel he built in South Beach, and at the time it was the tallest building in the area. The Tides was renovated in 1997 and continues operating to this day. Described as “The Diva of Ocean Drive,” it’s fair to say that this location exudes an attitude that you won’t find at many of the sights on this tour.
Our next stop on this self-guided walking tour is located right next door. North of The Tides, you will find yet another hotel with a distinctive appearance that can’t be mistaken.
(I) The Leslie 1244 Ocean Drive
If the yellow paint job isn’t enough to catch your attention, the surrounding palm trees and wonderful Art Deco architecture should do the trick. Built and designed by Albert Anis in 1937, this building combines the best of both the modern world and the Art Deco world. While modern architecture was typically very linear, Art Deco was much more bold and brave. You can definitely see the combination of these two art styles when you take a look at The Leslie. Although there are straight lines everywhere, they are painted in yellow and much more ornamental in design. Renovated in 2014, this is one of the newer restorations on Ocean Drive. As we continue walking north, you’ll discover our next stop located right next door to The Leslie.
(J) Carlyle Hotel 1250 Ocean Drive
If you feel as though you have seen this building before, you might not be wrong. The Carlyle has been featured in several notable Hollywood films including Scarface, Bad Boys 2, and The Birdcage. This is one of the most easily recognizable hotels in all of South Beach and it’s not hard to see why. Like The Leslie, the design of The Carlyle combines modern architecture with rounded edges and a stand-out paint scheme that is hard to miss. Built in 1939, The Carlyle maintains the same architectural style that defined its earlier days in Miami Beach.
When you’ve finished taking in the sights and sounds of this memorable locale, continue walking north on Ocean Drive. Once you pass 13th street, look left and take note of our next stop.
(K) Cardozo Hotel 1300 Ocean Drive
Like The Carlyle, The Cardozo may also look familiar, having appeared in Hollywood blockbusters Any Given Sunday and There’s Something About Mary. Built in 1939 by Henry Hohauser and now owned by Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio, this hotel is another fine example of a combination between modern architecture and more artistic fare. Rounded edges combine with the straight lines of the windows creating a design that is unmistakably Art Deco in nature.
Continue your trip down Ocean Drive by stopping at the hotel right next door and discovering yet another unique architectural design in the heart of South Beach.
(L) The Cavalier 1320 Ocean Drive
Just a few steps from The Cardozo Hotel, you will find a building that looks strikingly different from most of the locations you have visited on this walking tour. While many of the Art Deco buildings in Miami Beach focus on horizontal lines, The Cavalier bucks this trend by going for a more vertical style. With stucco friezes directing your eyes upward, this Caribbean inspired architectural design is sure to leave an impression. The hotel was built in 1936 and was recently renovated in 2015. Much like The Carlyle and The Cardozo, The Cavalier has also been a popular destination for filmmakers.
From this point, you will want to continue walking north on Ocean Drive until you reach 14th street. At the corner, you’ll discover the next stop on the tour.
(M) The Winter Haven 1400 Ocean Drive
With a name like this, the intended audience is pretty clear. By the time this location was built in 1939, ‘snowbirds’ were making their way down to South Beach every winter, and Art Deco hotels were popping up all over Ocean Drive to accommodate their needs. Like The Leslie, The Winter Haven was originally designed by Albert Anis. Take note of the awning style, which is very similar to the design we saw back at The Leslie. Inside, the details of this beautiful hotel have been restored using period accurate materials, ensuring that the original flavor of The Winter Haven remains intact for an entirely new generation of visitors.
Continue walking west on 14th street until you reach Collins Avenue. Once on Collins, walk north until you reach Española Way. The next destination on this self-guided walking tour will be right on the corner — you cannot miss it!
(N) Site of the former Hoffman’s Cafeteria 1450 Collins Avenue
Depending on when you visit, this location might have an entirely new tenant. As of writing this tour, the current restaurant located in the building is Señor Frogs, but they are only one of many restaurants that have made this historical Art Deco structure their home. Back in 1940, this was known as Hoffman’s Cafeteria, and it was designed by none other than Henry Hohauser. Despite the change in paint job, the architecture of this beautiful location still manages to stand out from the crowd. Eventually, other businesses moved in and set up shop, including the Warsaw Ballroom and Jerry’s Famous Deli. When Jerry’s moved in, they refurbished the building a bit, using pictures from decades past to recreate original Art Deco concepts that had fallen into disrepair. Why not stop in and grab a bite to eat if you’re hungry. Once you’re ready, head north on Collins Avenue until you reach 16th street, at which point you will see one of the largest buildings in the area.
(O) Loews Hotel 1601 Collins Avenue
Although it may not seem like this monolith has anything to do with the Art Deco era of the 30’s and 40’s, it actually houses one of the more notable hotels in the history of South Beach. Located on the right side of the Loew’s Hotel, you will also see the St. Moritz Hotel, which was restored by Loews and is still in use today. The St. Moritz has been in Miami Beach since 1939, when it was designed and built by Roy France. The St. Moritz continues to serve as an excellent example of Art Deco architecture and its ties to Miami, as even developers are keen to keep history alive by restoring and renovating classic hotels. Our next few sites are just past Lincoln road as you continue north on Collins Avenue. All three are right next to each other, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find them.
(P) Sagamore Hotel 1671 Collins Avenue
As you come across this collection of Art Deco hotels on your right, the first you will notice is The Sagamore. The history of The Sagamore Hotel in South Beach is emblematic of the cultural importance represented in Miami’s Art Deco district. Having been built in 1948 by Albert Anis, the style of this particular hotel is definitely different from others that you will see on Collins Avenue. You will see many more straight lines on display, as well as the characteristic Art Deco awnings that have no doubt become quite familiar at this point. Despite the hint of modern design, the architecture is definitely postmodern in concept, subverting expectations by extending its lines beyond the standard cubic structure of most modern hotels. In 1999, The Sagamore was purchased by Martin Taplin and partially converted into a museum of sorts. Although it still serves as a hotel, you will now also find an art gallery inside the halls of this beautiful and historic landmark. The next stop on our walking tour is right next door.
(Q) National Hotel 1677 Collins Avenue
With its bold color choices that draw your eyes upwards, it’s hard to deny the beauty of The National Hotel. At around the same time that he was working on The St. Moritz, Roy France also began working on The National. While there are some similarities between these two landmarks, there are also a lot of notable differences. The hotel originally opened in 1940 and was later restored to its former glory in 1997. You’ll even find a lot of the original furnishings scattered around the inside of this building, as many of them have been updated and restored along with the hotel itself. You won’t have to walk far to reach our next location on this walking tour of Miami’s Art Deco district – it’s right next door!
(R) Delano 1685 Collins Avenue
When it was built in 1947, the Delano was actually the tallest building in Miami Beach. When you look at it right next to The National, it doesn’t appear to be much taller, but these things used to be fairly important to developers back in the day. Designed by Robert Swartburg in the mid-40’s, the hotel was one of the first in the area to be built after World War II. and was used as military housing for a short time before its doors were opened to guests. The hotel was named in honor of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who died in 1945. With such a unique design, it’s no wonder that The Delano was listed among 2007’s “America’s Favorite Architecture” list published by the American Institute of Architects.The design of this building takes the modern approaches of old and twists them out of place. The building was renovated and restored in 1994 under the direction of world-renown architect Philippe Starck hoping to attract a new generation of chic hotel guests. The Delano succeeded and is now one of the hottest hotels in Miami, with celebrity guests like Kim Kardashian, Jay-Z, and Leo DiCaprio.
Having just toured almost 10 blocks along both Ocean Avenue and Collins Avenue, it’s about time to wrap up this tour. There are quite a few more hotels and buildings in the area, as well as all over Miami, so for the ones not covered on this tour, we’ve included a video below.
If you’re not tired, we recommend heading over to Lincoln Road for some shopping at their historic open air mall. Of course, you can take a bus tour or boat tour, so be sure to check out our posts about which tours are the best.